|System: 3DS, Wii, PS3, PC, Xbox 360|
|Dev: Vicarious Visions|
|Release: October 16, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: N/A||Cartoon Violence|
by Sean Engemann
Activision is taking their unique Spyro concept to typically unexplored grounds, matching a peripheral with a portable. The Nintendo 3DS version of Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure has a completely original story, level design, and 3D graphics tailored to the handheld, and an exclusive Dark Spyro figurine. The game does suffer from static camera controls, limited RPG elements, and a reduced amount of content compared to the console version. However, there's enough substance to put Spyro's Adventure right alongside the best 3DS titles thus far, but perhaps not enough to justify the $70 price tag for the starter kit.
Not satisfied with being a mere port with limited features, the 3DS version of Spyro's Adventure tells an alternate story to that of its console brethren, involving the same Skylands calamity, but with a fresh plot. While Kaos is off performing his own malefactor maladies after destroying the Core of Light, Hektore, an even more sinister antagonist, has his sights set on the Radiant Isles. Appearing as a disembodied, havoc-wreaking head that can vaporize all who oppose him, he is more than just an end-boss encounter. Hektore is constantly on the prowl, tipped off to your location as soon as you acquire a precious crystal during a quest. It then becomes a frantic dash against the clock to clear the board. Should the timer tick down to zero, Hektore unfalteringly blasts you to smithereens.
Your main objective is to rescue the Seekers who have been enslaved by Hektore. Only with their combined power can you destroy Hektore's Dark Mirror and truly confront him. With the help of Wendel, son of one of the Seekers, you can coordinate your missions from the hub island called the Sanctuary. While resting there, you can change your two-man team by placing your choice of Skylander onto the Portal of Power and uploading its digital copy into the world of Skylands. The wireless connection between the base and 3DS can be finicky at times, and you may feel you need to hold your DS just right during the five-second transfer time. But once uploaded, your team is set, and the portal's work is done. Now, this does confine your decision, and you cannot swap characters at your leisure during a quest.
Throughout each mission, you will not collect currency to purchase new skills. Instead, you'll gather Radiance strewn about the level and dropped by defeated foes. After successfully completing a mission, your collected Radiance, along with a time bonus, will determine your experience gained. Also, each day, two new elemental classes will be favored, and using Skylanders of those types will grant an additional experience bonus. There are eight elemental classes: air, life, undead, earth, fire, water, magic, and tech, and each Skylander has a selection of attacks unique to that element. Levels come with various objectives, and completing one earns you an additional crystal, with a designated amount of crystals required to unlock portals to new zones and progress through the campaign. Element-specific objectives are present in each level, and can only be accessed if you're playing with a Skylander of the appropriate element.
The levels are varied and enticing enough to warrant multiple playthroughs. However, there are certain issues here that should have been addressed before shipping the game.
First and foremost is the camera, which you have no control over. It maintains its place looking down the corridor-style levels, instead of following behind you. It is designed to keep the action moving forward, a prudent course considering the mission eventually turns into a race to the finish before Hektore appears and obliterates you. Yet each board has numerous forks in the path, and oftentimes you'll want to backtrack to seek out more treasure. Since you're unable to see two feet in front of you, you'll probably end up falling off the edge of the floating island and losing health in the process.
Second is the omission of ability scores—you still have health and damage parameters, but other scores such as critical hit, armor, and elemental power are missing. (If they actually are present and affecting your character, they aren't viewable in any game menu.)
Also slightly disappointing are the collectible hats. In the 3DS version, they are scattered in obscure places around each board, packaged in a nicely wrapped present complete with a bow. But unlike in other versions of the game, slapping one on your noggin is for visual purposes only. (Like the ability scores, if they do grant a stat boon, the game does not let you know about it.) There are also scrolls to collect, and each is relegated to a specific Skylander, whether it is one in your possession or not. This appears to be the only mentioned statistic boost besides gaining levels, and ownership of a scroll grants a nice damage bonus for that particular character.
Combat in the 3DS version surprisingly has a few more universal maneuvers. Most Skylanders are still incapable of blocking, but all are granted a dash and a double jump, making the hit-and-run combat a little more engaging. Also, should one of your two Skylanders die, you can continue with the other, and you can even revive your fallen comrade by spending a designated amount of Radiance.